An upbeat attitude about the future of local and state economies was presented at the third annual Center for Education and the Arts, (CEBA) economic conference held April 23-24 at the Kanab Middle School. CEBA Executive Director Kelly Stowell welcomed everyone to the well-attended conference.

Kanab City Mayor Nina Laycook presented the state of the city. She said while the economic conditions were trying, the city had several public works projects (utilizing grants and matching monies), going forward.

Airport improvements were at the top of the list. She credited airport manager Dick Brewer for the project. Mostly paid for with aviation fuel tax sold both here and throughout the state, the funding is for rehabilitative work on the ramp area in front of the terminal and toward the hangars. She mentioned the new BLM/Grand Staircase headquarters to be built in Kanab, and that the city would be responsible for the work on the flood plain on land involved. Laycook also stressed culinary water issues as a city responsibility, as well as the costs involved.

Another city project is the ‘old dip’ crossing into the Ranchos. After 25 years, the crossing will be replaced and once completed, will feature a new bridge and sidewalks on both sides. She said while the projects cost the city funds, contractors and construction workers staying for extended lengths of time, would bring added dollars into the local economy. “I do feel optimistic,” said Laycook.

She congratulated people who take on events such as the Greyhound Gathering, Earthfest, Old Spanish Trail Association and Western Legends Roundup, as people who make Kanab happen. She praised CEBA and Kelly Stowell, as well as Christina Schultz for their hard work.

Commissioner Doug Heaton presented a state of the county address. He cited the roads issue, and another court appeal to be heard on May 4. “We’re pretty confident we’re going to win this.” He praised outgoing Commissioner Mark Habbeshaw for being a ‘true hero’ for RS2477 road rights within the county.

On the recent land use plan conflict with the commission, he said the rights needed to go back to the people, and governments should have more respect for private property rights.

According to Heaton, the county’s financial status was challenged in the past few years due to numerous economic issues and infrastructure challenges, (including a Cedar Mountain project), that required the county to borrow money to operate. He said the commission had not wanted to raise taxes.

“We’re in a better financial condition than ever, we’re actually in the black, (and have a fund balance),” said Heaton, of the county’s current situation. He said sales tax revenues were up, and the tourism industry was doing well.

“We (the government) kind of get in the way,” added Heaton. “We are not the solution, we’re often the problem. We need to create an environment in which free enterprise can work.”

Heaton expressed his personal desire to decrease the amount of funding the county accepts from the federal government. He added, “I believe that we’re sucking the money down the pipeline when we take the (federal) money.” Later, he added the question as to why we would, “purchase our liberty with our own money?”

Kane County Water Conservancy District Executive Director Mike Noel gave an update on the projects in which they were involved. (The district was created by vote in 1992.) He cited projects all over Cedar Mountain, as well as in Johnson Canyon, Orderville, and the new Jackson Flat Reservoir in Kanab. He expressed the importance of securing water development for the future of Kane County.